The Dual Impact of Technology on Productivity and Employee


Technology advancement has had significant impact not only on work performance merited by increased efficiency and improved productivity but also it is increasing having instrumental influence on the workplace engagement and culture. For instance, traditionally, employees would conglomerate in a same building space but with advancement in computing and teleconferencing (video calling) current employees can work in not just different building but country and even continent with instantaneous coordination, collaboration, and communication as if they were in same location (Ludike, 2018; Chan et al. 2021; Vallo Hult, & Byström, 2021). To some, even better. Additionally, in addition to allocating tasks, management can monitor employee performance and productivity. According to Ewing et al. (2019), technologies such as social media and teleconferencing have developed quality communication channels connecting teams together as well as management-employees. In weigh the beneficial components on ways the technology has changed the workplace, one has to acknowledge the impact from both the employees and management perspective. For management, it has to remodel through adoption of new approaches in order to maintain employee relationship. As such, management need to formulate ways of managing employment relationship to conform to changing working environment.


The employment relation that is conventionally built on formal communication means that include formal memos and face-to-face communication, formal appraisal techniques, and feedback (review) process. However, according to Schroth (2019), the rise of smartphones and social media platforms pushed employees particularly the millennials cohorts to adopted an relative unconventional informal communication and sharing of information. Similarly, as pointed by Cappelli and Tavis (2016), such companies as Adobe, Microsoft, and IBM have integrated agile appraisal technique involving continuous assessment of employee performance by centrally tracking information and collaborative tools. The approach giving a continuous and ongoing assessment rather than annually appraisal, is linked to the idea of engaging and involving employees more, recognised and rewarded under gamifications at work concept (Widen, 2017).


Fundamentally, an organisational success is squarely rooted on the performance of its employees. Therefore, for many if not all, monitoring process encompasses assessing the input of an individual and collectively as a team with expected output and importantly growth. According to Osabiya (2015) and Bradler et al. (2016), incentivising productivity through recognition and reward is built on acknowledgement on going beyond desired input and producing high output. For organisations, measurement of input then relating to output cultivating performance need to be fair and reflecting individual and team productivity across. As pointed by De Gieter and Hofmans (2015), the recognition needs to highlight performance and value. According to Schwarzmüller et al. (2018), having a merited recognition structures is a strong motivational factors and enriches employees’ energies towards attaining stipulated goals. Tweedie et al. (2019) attributed recognition to involving timely, informal, and formal acknowledgement of employees’ behaviour and input in support of organisational goals and culture.

Traditionally, the monitoring process would encompass direct observation of input, mapping the output, and recognition employees’ loyalty (Aleks et al., 2020). However, in contemporary working environment, the use of performance reviews by management that entailed knowing tasks an employee is working on, time taken, expected completion period, efficiency, and rating of the output is being abandon due to negative effect it has on employee morale and ultimate performance. According to Aloisi and Gramano (2019), monitoring employees directly can be significantly beneficial to an organisation if implemented correctly. The technology-based monitoring offers consistency across the board among the management as the merit used eliminates the biasness that might be held using traditional one-on-one technique.

However, the monitoring of employees have been criticised for several reasons. First, Chang et al. (2015) argued the issues with privacy and confidentiality during monitoring. Employee surveillance has become rampant occurrence in the workplace in the pretence of monitoring performance. Manokha (2020) hypothesised that just having the perception of possibility of constant surveillance is enough control employees. The management do not have to be visible to employees being monitored meaning an employee can be monitored without them knowing that they are being watched. The very awareness that management might be monitoring their work continuously and constant induces the employ to comply in attempt to avoid risks and that shred of possibility (Holt, Lang, & Sutton, 2017; Holland et al., 2015). Technology advancement such as computer software and platforms in which employees log in to the company’s hosted virtual environment where they work remotely gives the management that edge in monitoring because exact moment of observation does not have to exist. According to Okkonen, Vuori, and Palvalin (2019), the psychological game induced give the management an effective way of ensuring the employees work during working hours.

The major drawback with this is assumption that working and productivity balance out. As pointed by Hanaysha (2016), an employee might have high work input but productivity is at the lowest. Although the monitoring has been made relative easier, the psychological effect of being constantly monitored and watched may have detrimental effect on productivity. In addition to creating distrust and suspicion, the employee may fear to be innovative and creative while working because they are being recorded and might questioned if anything goes wrong. Jeske and Santuzzi (2015) argued that a company may gain higher productivity in short terms but the broken trust and lost engagement might be long term effect of the constant monitoring. According to Holt, Lang, and Sutton (2017), the privy of losing the privacy by feeling constantly monitored will ultimately leads to reduced morale. In has been reported that companies particularly in financial sector monitor employees’ internet usage, phones, and emails.

Moreover, the approach has been criticised for not tied to measurable outcomes. For instance, in monitoring and rating an employee performance based on ‘communication’ or ‘customer service’, it mostly leaves grey areas that are not well defined to what constitute a bad and good rating. Adopting a system structured to fostering healthy monitoring has a huge potential benefit to both parties. However, as currently observed by Burnett and Lisk (2019), monitoring is being used to satisfy the compliance and productivity needs of employer as well as providing huge array of data to justify changes mostly against the employee. For examples, employees who demonstrate misuse of internet, searching of content not related to their tasks, might be have pay cut or job terminated.

Building from the argument held by Brown (2015) and McParland & Connolly (2019), employer-employee relationship is a two-way exchange holding in reciprocal promises and obligations. The employer expects employees to contribute to an organisation larger mission and goals through effort, loyalty, and abilities, and in return, it induces pay, promotion, recognition, and job security. However, according to Burnett and Lisk (2019), increasing monitoring threatens this traditionally accepted relationship. Building from the psychological reactance theory that states that people react in behaviour and cognitive in attempt to re-establish their freedom (Posey et al., 2011). Employee might perceive this as a breach of expectations, and may feel betrayed and subjected to injustice. This will lead to a significant counterproductive work behaviours such as resistance due to privacy rights, reduced retention and loyalty, and low commit. In relation to upholding individual privacy, protection motivation theory suggests that people tend to adjust their behaviour in response to protecting their sensitive information (McParland & Connolly, 2019). However, the behaviour adjustment is rooted on threats to the privacy, severity of the infringement, likelihood og information being breached, and ability to cope in aftermath.

Apps and the Gig Economy

The concept of gig economy working that involves employees working remotely had been increasing trend before the novel corona virus pandemic. The idea breaking away from traditional 9-5 working arrangement to accommodate employees personal needs supported by technology (Sang et al., 2015). According to Todolí-Signes (2017), technology has made team coordination although the working has moved to remote, video conferencing and sharing information and documentations as well as automate follow-up. Currently, with interconnectedness at global stage, a company can hire an ‘employee’ from relative different region to work on specified tasks and once the tasks is complete the contract cease to exist. The contractual terms are specific to the task in which can run as low as a few hours or months.

According to GOV.UK (2020), flexible working includes job sharing (employees doing same job and splitting hours), working from home, working part-time, compressed hours, and phased retirement where employee choosing to reduce work hours. The concept of gig economy is built on workers seeking independence through only working for a specified period without long-term commitment. The idea of a ‘job for life’ and concept of career is being redefined by people opting to work independently and only ta their convenience (Forrest, 2020). According to Petriglieri et al. (2018), gig economy is fundamentally built on idea that employees can freely and globally work as on-demand independent worker. The digitalisation of economy has led to rapid development and growth on-demand platforms where people can for different companies.

In terms of working dynamics, gig economy gives a company a platform where it can hire highly skilled and specified individuals only when require. Hence, removing long-term commitment through permanent employment. For workers, the work-life balance promised by gig economy is a driving factor for its growth (Wood et al., 2019). However, such technologies supporting interconnectedness such as Skype, Slack, Dropbox, as well as social media has made the gig economy a reality. However, the approach erodes organisational culture and long-term goals as contracted employees are interested on short-term and completing tasks then part ways. As pointed by Kuhn (2016), the traditional commitment and loyalty an employee held with an organisation cease to exist where individual trade their skills to the higher bidder. According to Forbes (2019), gone are the days an employee held a job lasting a whole lifetime.

Organisation core values and long-term growth, survival, and sustainability of an organisation is under threat for workers no longer concern themselves on what the company stands for and where it intended to go rather, are engrained on finishing the task given then part ways with the company. Due to competitive nature of gig economy coupled with concept of taking only specified tasks and being contracted per tasks, an organisation sees high productivity and quality work without spending on training and retaining the workforce (Lehdonvirta, 2018; Horney, 2016). As such, industry as IT continues to evolve seeing rapid changes, continuously training employees to conform to market demands can be relatively expensive. For gig workers, they have to remain relevant through continuous self-learning by attaining skills and knowledge aligned to market.

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The shift in the modern workplace driven by technology advancement has not just result in positive influence but has had a negative impact that organisations need to adjust and adopt in order to remain competitive. Accordingly, in the changing working environment to being technology driven, there is need to monitor employees exist in order to advance productivity especially for those working remotely. However, employees feel constantly monitor and violate privacy threatens the long term working relationship and performance of employees. Organisation need to clearly communicate policy extent of monitoring while drawing a line on privacy and engagement, while encouraging innovativeness, and thinking outside the box without being watched. In implementation of monitoring tools, the biggest challenge brews from replacing the traditional monitoring with technology-driven monitoring approach rather than using to enhance the existing procedures. The failure to differentiate between monitoring and surveillance will ultimately cause employee to have a negative attitude towards the company.

Changes such as gig-economy support by technology has led to increased efficiency and productivity as well as flexibility in workplace but it is has also led to reduced loyalty, evolution of employee perception of workplace, and arguably less concerned with organisation culture. Despite increasing number of people opting to work on-demand, in the UK, the issue of defining employer-employee relations embodied by gig economy has raised some concerns. Promoting right technology at work that embodies organisational culture, its survival, long-term growth while drawing need skills and knowledge cheaply need to balance.


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